Though trained in the broader field of modern European history (with an emphasis on modern Germany), my research interests in social movements, the politics of resistance and transnational alliances reflect a particular commitment to the field of contemporary history.
My first book, Terror and Democracy in West Germany (Cambridge University Press, 2012), uses the example of 1970s West Germany to investigate the problem of how a democracy can successfully defend itself and still remain democratic in the process. To be sure, the Federal Republic was hardly the first or the last state to confront the question. The book argues, however, that the particular answers arrived at by West Germans at the end of the 1970s revised previous conclusions regarding democracy’s viability in Germany and helped reshape West German political culture as a result.
My current project brings together a number of different research strands — tourism; food; migration; international diplomacy; politics of the right, left, and center — to reveal Italy’s particular importance for Germany’s moral and psychological re-founding as well as its political and economic reconstruction after World War Two and Nazism. For several generations of Germans, in the east as well as in the west, Italy served as both a physical place and an (imagined) alternative path from which to confront (and, yes, sometimes to escape) the specific challenges and disappointments of postwar Germany. In this, Italians were not passive bystanders or mere “screens” for German conceptions of difference; they actively cultivated relations with Germans, collaborated in their political aspirations, and, as migratory workers and entrepreneurs, lived among West Germans. In other words, postwar Germans’ love affair with Italy was very much an entangled affair and Germans were not quite the unrequited lovers we assume them to have been. If, after 1990, this affair serves no greater purpose, it still resonates powerfully in EU economic politics and cultural concerns about Germany’s — even the globe’s — “Italianization.”